Frederick has a soul music station, but you can’t hear it by turning the dial. WSCR is an internet radio station founded 10 years ago by program director DeWayne Alston, a three-year Frederick resident. The station features weekly programs like Soulfully Jazz Sundays and Late-Night Soul sessions. WSCR plays music by staples like Lalah Hathaway and Eric Roberson as well as up and comers like Chaquis Maliq.
Internet radio predates the current podcast phenomenon. Online radio existed since the days of RealPlayer and Napster, but in so many ways, Alston still has to explain how WSCR works.
“We don’t have a brick and mortar establishment,” Alston said over the phone. “As long as I have an Internet connection, I have access to [WSCR].”
You can listen to WSCR on SoulCityRadio.com, as well as on online radio platforms like TuneIn.
WSCR seems like a well-kept secret that’s too good to be true. There is a dearth of performing soul artists in Frederick. Even WSCR’s Facebook includes a heartbreaking number of posts highlighting Washington, D.C., concerts and not shows from non-Frederick County artists.
That fact leads to the inevitable question: Is Frederick County a dead zone for soul music?
“There is no soul music presence here at all,” Alston said. “And what I gathered from talking to people, it may be done by design. What I was told was, Frederick is trying to maintain its image. It’s always been known as white, blue-collar — there’s a lot of farming. That whole image.”
Ironically, Alston was told this by an older white woman and long-time Frederick resident.
Alston concluded that maintaining the status quo is the reason for limited musical options in Frederick. He cited how talk radio and country stations thrive in Frederick as an example. Alston also referred to the country artists selected to perform at The Great Frederick Fair as further evidence of the type of image that he says Frederick tries to portray.
This hasn’t stopped the Baltimore native from attempting to change the status quo.
“I was going to put together a concert,” Alston said of a time when he recently moved to Frederick. “I was going to bring an artist by the name of Zo! and he was more than willing to come. I tried to get the best venue available for a talent on his level.”
Zo! is a musician and producer best known for his work with Foreign Exchange, a collective based on the duo of rapper/singer Phonte and producer Nicolay.
With a common overlap of soul and jazz fans, it makes sense that Alston pursued the Weinberg as a potential venue. The Weinberg has had its fair share of touring jazz artists, housing everyone from Gregory Porter to Esperanza Spalding.
Alston described his initial efforts, including reaching out to the Weinberg, as “gung-ho.” He also said his enthusiasm was not returned by the Weinberg.
“They just kind of brushed me off,” he explained. “To be honest, that’s just how I felt about it. Basically, when I was speaking to them about it, they sounded so interested. And I was specifically told somebody would get back to me about it, and then nothing. Honestly it was at that point when I started wondering what was acceptable here.”
“What I learned in my experience with places like that is the more you try to chip away at the iceberg, the more they’re gonna shut down,” Alston said of the Weinberg. “What they need to start realizing is the financial viability. What you gotta do is establish something that they can see. So they see, this place has it and they’re thriving and then they’ll come around. Because eventually, they’re gonna want that young money because the old folks aren’t going to be around for long.”
The Zo! concert didn’t pan out, but Alston responded by exploring potential concerts at Café 611. He hosted a monthly series called SOMINAR, short for soul, mind and art, in 2015. On Alston’s YouTube page, listed under his Soul Music Media Network company, there are videos of singer Brian Christopher. The camera only shows Brian Christopher and not the audience and that choice was intentional. Alston said the turnout for the event was minimal. He admitted that he could have done more to promote the event, but with his family and full-time job, making WSCR known in Frederick is a challenge.
“You got to be out in people’s faces here,” Alston explained. “Until I’m able to invest in doing that, I’m kinda going to be tripping along.”
Still, he soldiers on. Even with WHUR, D.C.’s legendary soul and R&B station that is easily heard in Frederick, Alston sees himself as having an edge.
“The advantage that I have in this area is WHUR doesn’t come up here,” Alston confidently stated. “The difference between WHUR and me is there’s no red tape. If people want their music on the station, they come directly to me. I don’t believe in the whole payola thing. It’s not really about that.”
Alston couldn’t name many local soul artists, but he said J.Rose is in WSCR’s rotation. Stitch Early was also one of the first local artists played on WSCR. Alston occasionally includes artists outside of soul music if they have a sound that is a component of the genre.
Alston has hope in the younger generation in Frederick, who he views as more open-minded and accepting. He also believes his struggle to find welcoming spaces for soul music can create dialogue about who gets excluded in Frederick and why.
“I want to be that soul and R&B station for Frederick,” he said. “It’s an uphill climb, but I keep plugging along.”
Correction: Original article stated that DeWayne Alston hosts both Soulfully Jazz Sundays and Late-Night Soul Sessions. Alston hosts Late-Night Soul Sessions but not Soulfully Jazz Sundays.